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Gray seeking more information from Massena Memorial

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MASSENA — A decision on whether to change Massena Memorial Hospital from a municipal entity to a nonprofit organization will have to be made within six to nine months, town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said this week.

“I think the only fix is to change the hospital to something other than a public hospital,” Mr. Gray said during a Town Council meeting Wednesday.

He said the board of managers of the financially struggling hospital plans to make a decision by the end of the year. Final approval would come from the Town Council.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gray said he was disappointed with a financial analysis of the hospital that has been prepared.

“I thought the financial analysis would have been much more extensive, considering what we paid for it,” he said. “Before we vote, I want to see some data. We’ve seen some data, but I want to see more data.”

Mr. Gray said he wants to know how staffing and salaries at Massena Memorial compare with those of other area hospitals.

Councilman John F. Macaulay said salary information is not relevant.

“It doesn’t matter what someone in Potsdam is making, because it’s in a contract,” he said, referring to Massena Memorial employees. “There’s no question that some of the administrative people have had pay raises much higher than the union people.”

Mr. Macaulay also said he had a solution for the hospital’s problems.

“No one’s going to want to hear it,” he said. “Everyone takes a 10 percent salary cut and pays in $5,000 for their health care, and the problem is solved.”

Should the hospital remain public and nothing changes, Mr. Macaulay said, one of two things would happen: bankruptcy and the hospital closes, or taxpayers have to begin funding the hospital.

“The report said they would go red in 2017, which isn’t that far away,” he said.

According to information presented to the hospital board, Mr. Macaulay said, the hospital’s deficit that year would be $3.2 million, which would raise the town’s tax rate by $6.40 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

“Let’s say they’re off by 50 percent. That’s still $1.6 million,” he said, noting that would increase the tax rate by $3.20 per $1,000.

“We’ve just doubled our tax rate,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone wants to see that happen,” Councilman Thomas C. Miller said.

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